Growing up in a society where alcohol has such a strong influence on judgments is a very hard task to overcome by teens. The effects of using alcohol underage are many, and none of them that I have found have been good. I have seen firsthand the consequences of the use and abuse of alcohol by minors. Throughout high school, and even before, my family has been one where alcohol is prevalent. Because my older siblings, parents, and even friends were drinking, it made the ability to say no to it even harder for me.
I constantly found myself drinking at parties; not because I necessarily liked it, but because everyone else was doing it. It was until now that I truly realized how it can affect your life: physically and mentally. I find myself here today after being arrested for alcohol offenses twice and learning what alcohol can do to me before the age of twenty-one, truly regretting my choices. Though the legal drinking age is twenty-one in the United States, the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse has found that almost 80% of high school students have tried alcohol.
Although drinking is merely a decision; I have found that much more thought should be put into that choice before you decide to do it. First, you must think about the effects on the body that alcohol has. Because alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the central nervous system. That means that it can actually inhibit certain messages that are trying to get to a person’s brain. Things that are altered by this are a person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing. Experts know that a person’s brain continues to develop well into their teen years, which is why twenty-one if the legal age to consume alcohol.
The exposure of alcohol to a still developing brain could potentially have long-lasting effects on intellectual capabilities and may also increase the risk of becoming addicted. Each year the start of drinking is delayed, the dependence to it is decreased by as much as 14%. Not only does it affect a person’s physical health, it affects the emotional health as well. When alcohol is mixed with depression and stress, it increases the risk of suicides. High school students who drink are more than twice as likely to have thought about suicide when compared to non-drinkers.
Studies have found that an estimated 300 deaths per year occur from alcohol related suicide. Alcohol has very negative effects on a developing teen and should not be taken lightly. Though these are only some of the effects that drinking has on a growing teen, there are many more. There are a lot of different ways that teen drinking can be prevented. Among them include laws, a teen knowing how to say “no”, a parent’s role, and also community action. If a teen understands why alcohol is not a good decision, there is a more likely chance that teens will not choose to drink.
In New Hampshire, laws against underage drinking are many. Some laws include, underage possession of alcohol, transporting alcohol as a minor, driving while under the influence of alcohol, internal possession of alcohol, and the list goes on and on. In my particular case, the first offense I got charged with was transporting alcohol by a minor. When I was getting out of work one night, my supervisor, who didn’t have his license at the time, had asked me to bring him to the store to buy cigarettes. When we got to the store, he ended up buying beer as well.
I was unaware that I wasn’t allowed to drive with alcohol in the car if the over 21 person was with me, however, I soon found out. The police officer soon pulled me over after watching the alcohol brought into my car. He then arrested me after telling me of the law. I had to go to court and luckily because of my cooperation with the cop, my $500 fine was suspended, and I had to attend a diversion program. It was soon after that, that I had attended a party with my family and ended up having a few drinks. This time, I knew I really shouldn’t have been drinking, but I didn’t think anything would happen because I was with family.
Again, I was very wrong. The cops ended up coming over to my sister’s house due to complaints of noise and I was again arrested. This time my charge was internal possession of alcohol by a minor. Again, I had to go to court. This time though, I did end up having to pay a $360 dollar fine and also had to write this paper. In both cases, I feel that I wasn’t fully aware of the law. I think that if schools were to take more time going over these alcohol laws, teens wouldn’t drink as much as they do. I know in my case, I certainly did not want to pay a fine, and definitely did not want to lose my license.
Laws would be much more helpful in preventing this teen epidemic if teens actually knew the full extent of them. A second way to prevent teen drinking is for parents to teach their children how to say “no”. A lot of teenagers end up drinking due to peer pressure. It becomes very hard for a teen to say know when all their friends are drinking. I know in my case that if I had learned ways to say “no” to my friends at the start of my teenage years, I would have spent a lot less time with a drink in my hand. The first and probably easiest way to say no is just by saying “no thanks”.
Most true friends will respect your decision and won’t ask you about it again. Others way of saying no include, “I’m not a drinker”, “I have to wake up early in the morning”, “My parents are coming to pick me up in a little while”, and “Nah, I’ll just take a soda”. Just like me, if other teens knew proper ways of saying no to alcohol, the issue would drastically decrease in the United States. Personally, I think that the best way to prevent children from consuming alcohol is through the community. In my hometown, there is not one teen center where we could have gone to hang out.
On top of that, the only thing for kids to due in my town is to go to the movies. I find this to be a big contributor to the problem of teen drinking. Because kids feel like they have “nothing else to do”, often the only other option is to make poor decisions about alcohol. I feel that communities should come together and really put money and effort into preventing teen drinking. I have known too many peers that I have gone to school with, that have passed away due to alcohol. I hope in the future my old town will truly understand the benefit of having things for teens to do and will put those thoughts into action.
Though I am not happy about the choices I have made in the past, I feel that I am a lot more aware of the alcohol laws. Feeling more aware about the consequences of the law and also on my own body has been life- changing. The thought of alcohol having such a lasting effect on my body has truly made me re-examine what is “fun”. I wish all teens that drink would have been lucky like I was to have gotten the experience to write this paper so that they could put more thought into their decision to drink.